Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Uphill Battle with Biodiesel Manufacturing in the Winter

Hello Everyone,
As with any mechanically-based system with pumps and valves and hoses, there are maintenance requirements. We weren't expecting these so soon, I have to admit. However, biodiesel is not a friendly substance in cold weather. The slide show below depicts the Senior students and I taking the methoxide tank completely off, disconnecting hoses and valves in an attempt to find a glycerin blockage. I could easily be discouraged by this, however, this is he real world when it comes to manufacturing engineering and even life....things go wrong. The key is to step back, develop a "plan of attack", and slowly and carefully execute the plan. Evaluate the plan along the way because, guess what, sometimes the plan changes!! Nevertheless, we found the blockage and reassembly is on the agenda after the holidays!
I was particularly proud of Sami Jo today as she got right in there and got dirty with me. Kara helped a lot, as her primary job was documentation and photography.
Special thanks to my dad, Larry Russell Bryant. If it wasn't for his donation of large vice grips, channel locks, pipe grabber (?), and a pipe wrench our dis-assembly wouldn't have happened! Thanks Dad!!

Next steps...we will learn how to REPROCESS a batch of biodiesel that did not process as expected. Lessons Learned: add a couple of gallons of methanol to the methoxide tank prior to adding the lye. Make sure the lye is completely dissolved so that the small holes in the Schedule 90 will not get clogged. Make biodiesel in an area with atmospheric temperature of 70 or above. Drain all hoses and pipes after each batch. I am sure if it wasn't midnight (the only quiet time around here), I could think of several more!!

Hope you enjoy the slide show!

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